12.04.14

On Ferguson: We Must Pray, Preach, and Practice

I am have been asked on several occasions what are my thoughts about the events in Ferguson, MO and the subsequent fallout around the country. Though I have not shared my thoughts publicly, I have had the opportunity to converse with people one and one and have found those conversations challenging, encouraging, and fruitful. I have hesitated to speak or write publicly because I don’t have what I believe are important facts. Besides, I don’t believe God has called me to pastor the nation. There are those seemingly more suited to speaking to the broader context on such issues. I am called to East Point Church, and there is enough in that corner of God’s vineyard to keep me busy. Consequently, on this past Sunday at EPC, we prayed for those involved in and around the events in Ferguson and for ourselves. I shared my thoughts with the church to which I am first and primarily called to speak. Having done that, I thought it might be helpful to share those thoughts now in a more public arena.

I find the difficulty with making judgments about the incident in Ferguson is that there are no innocent parties. It seems to me that both Michael Brown and Officer Wilson must assume some of the fault. Whether we realize it or not, the cultural lenses through which we view and experience the world often cloud our judgments of difficult and culturally sensitive situations. For example, if you sympathize mostly with Michael Brown, you will focus on the faults of the officer. If you sympathize mostly with Officer Wilson, you will focus on the faults of Michael Brown. Personally, I find myself sympathizing with both parties. Thus the tragedy for me is not simply that Michael Brown was killed. It is also that Officer Wilson was put in a position to have to make such a tragic choice. And exacerbated by the fact that the grand jury was told to decide a case where public consensus was not possible.

Still, unless we hide our heads in the sand and futilely believe that such situations in our society are an anomaly or will just go way, as Christians we are called upon to speak and act biblically at times like these. For me that involves three fundamental principles: Pray, Preach, and Practice.

We Must Pray ()

We must pray for the Brown family. We must pray for the Wilson family. We must pray for those men and women involved in the judicial process and those in legislative office, both local and national (). And when we have prayed for others, let us not neglect to pray for ourselves. We must pray that our trust will be in God and not ourselves or anything else. reminds us: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” The temptation at times like this is to put our trust in political systems, and social activism. History has shown us that political and judicial systems can be right, even when we think they are wrong, and wrong sometimes when we think they are right. The only sure truth is in Jesus Christ. Therefore, our hope must always be in the sovereign Lord who judges rightly though our systems and we often do not.

We Must Preach ()

We must also continue to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, calling people to faith in Christ and repentance from all sin. We don’t ignore the reality that the issues in Ferguson go beyond the encounter between Brown and Wilson. Over-policing and police brutality remain issues not to be swept under the rug. Likewise, threatening, disrespecting, and contempt for authority are also issues plaguing our communities. Consequently, we are called not simply to point out the wrong, but to preach against the inherent sin, systemic and personal – including racism, cultural pride, and abuse of authority, political arrogance, presumption, and self-justification. These are not just sins in the world, but in the church, and in me. When I read about the tragic death of Michael Brown, not only do I seek to understand the circumstances, but I must also hear Jesus saying, “but unless you repent, you will also perish” (Lk.13:3).  The Christian has as much right to the public discourse as any. However, the Christian voice must not only be the voice of reason, but also the voice of repentance (). If the Christian does not preach, who will? Who can?

We Much Practice ()

And lastly we must practice what we preach. Understandably in light of recent events, there are cries for justice and righteousness. Justice and righteousness are always good and should be pursued. No one is above the law, especially those called upon to make and administer it. However, the pursuit of such virtues should never be limited to the public sphere, but must also and with equal fervor be pursued in our personal lives. The world not only needs us to preach justice and righteousness, but it needs us to practice it as well. In other words, the justice we demand of the world is the justice I must demand of me. As the Bible reminds us, “Judgment begins in the household of God” (). Our God loves righteousness and justice (). So let us love it too. At times it may call for us to take to the streets and make it known. However, as Christians we must be careful to practice the righteousness and justice in our homes that we demand in the streets (). In other words I must be willing to ask the question, “How just and right is the heart of the one calling for justice and righteousness in this world?” Am I practicing justice and righteousness with my wife, my parents, my children, my employer, my employees, and those in authority over me? Do those who know me best know me as a righteous and just person? The testimony of the Christian is not just that he cries in the street “Justice! Justice!” but also that his home and life is marked out by it as well. The best of politics is local. So too is the best of preaching. Let me seek to practice what I preach, especially at times like this.

Friends, there are as many opinions on Ferguson as (in the words of my mother) “Carter has liver pills.” You probably didn’t ask for it, but here is mine. There is nothing earth shattering or culture shifting in my words. I don’t call for sweeping legislative change, though that may be necessary. I simply seek to understand the faith I am called to proclaim and live out. If you are a Christian, I pray you are doing the same, even if you don’t agree with me.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (ESV)

for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (ESV)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. (ESV)

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (ESV)

18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool. (ESV)

17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (ESV)

17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (ESV)

He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. (ESV)

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (ESV)

Tony Carter
Tony Carter serves as the Lead Pastor of East Point Church. Tony is married to his beloved, Adriane Carter, and their marriage has bore the fruit of five wonderful children. Holler at him on Twitter: @eastpc

C’mon Up!